Nominated by Richard R."The Deadlies," our contest to find the most insanely-dangerous gear of all time, is well under way. A bunch of folks have already posted their nominees. They're all brilliant. Take MOOSE ("Man Out of Space Easiest"), General Electric's one-man, orbital escape pod from the 1960's.
To use it, an astronaut first would don a spacesuit and remove the 200-pound packaged escape system from a large suitcase-sized container aboard the spacecraft.Then the person would unfold a 6-foot-long bag made of clear Mylar plastic and step into one end of it.Attached and bonded to the rear of the bag was an ablative heat shield about one-quarter inch (6.3 millimeters) thick. Inside the bag were two canisters of white polyurethane foam, a portable rocket motor with twin exhaust nozzles that protruded through the Mylar cover, a parachute, radio equipment and a survival kit.Once inside the bag, the astronaut would don a harness, zip the bag closed and float out the hatch of the spacecraft.Out in space the astronaut would activate the foam canisters, which would inflate the bag into the shape of a blunt cone within a few minutes.Then the astronaut would orient the bag with the rocket motor so that the blunt end faced towards Earth. That way, atmospheric heat upon reentry would char only the heat shield.Riiiiight. As Space.com observes, "corporate brochures touting MOOSE did not focus on the question of whether a person could withstand the mental and physiological shock of an untethered jump into space and a free fall of hundreds of miles (kilometers) back to Earth."
Perhaps the engineers gained confidence from U.S. Air Force Capt. Joe Kittinger who made a couple of towering leaps from open-balloon gondolas during the late 1950s and early 1960s.In one high-altitude test in August 1960, Kittinger jumped from a height of nearly 103,000 feet (31,395 meters) and free fell for more than four and a half minutes before his parachute opened. Kittinger even surpassed the speed of sound the only human to do so without using an aircraft or space vehicle -- yet survived his 20-mile (32-kilometer) fall in remarkably good shape.The reasoning followed that if one man survived such a drop, then others could as well from even higher altitudes.Got a "Deadlies" candidate? Speak up!